SAN DIEGO — The San Diego police officer who shot and wounded a man this week after he pointed a fake handgun at the officer was identified Thursday as Sgt. Robert Wills, a 21-year department veteran who was involved in a fatal shooting in 1999 of a former NFL player.
Wills shot Robert McBride Jr. about 12:30 a.m. Wednesday in the parking lot outside the CVS Pharmacy on Mira Mesa Boulevard near Camino Ruiz, police Lt. Kevin Rooney said. Wills fired one time after McBride, 22, of Mira Mesa pulled a replica weapon from his waistband and aimed it at the officer, Rooney said.
McBride, who was on probation, has been convicted of several crimes since 2006, including grand theft and burglary.
Wills thought McBride and a friend were getting ready to burglarize cars in the parking lot near the CVS, police said. The friend went inside the store, and Wills stopped McBride and asked for his identification. McBride ran away and Wills chased after him.
When McBride was about 175 feet away from Wills he stopped, turned and started to run toward the sergeant before pulling out the airsoft gun and raising it, Rooney said. That’s when Wills shot him.
Investigators said McBride’s gun turned out to be a plastic Airsoft replica .45-style pistol that shoots 6mm airsoft plastic BBs.
McBride underwent surgery and is expected to survive. When he is released from the hospital, he will be booked into jail on suspicion of exhibiting an imitation firearm in a threatening manner and for violating probation, Rooney said.
Will is on routine administrative duty while the shooting is investigated.
In July 1999, he was one of two officers involved in the fatal shooting of Demetrius DuBose, 28, an all-American Notre Dame football star who spent four seasons with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
DuBose was shot 12 times after attacking Wills and officer Timothy Keating with their own martial arts weapons in Mission Beach. The shooting sparked charges of racial bias because both officers are white and DuBose was black.
The FBI and the District Attorney’s Office cleared both officers, saying the use of deadly force was justified because they believed their lives were in danger. A federal jury also unanimously ruled in favor of Wills and Keating in a wrongful death lawsuit that DuBose’s mother filed.
Three months before the DuBose shooting, Wills was involved in an altercation in Pacific Beach with bicyclist Thomas McHale, a San Diego firefighter, that led to a lawsuit.
Wills used a chokehold on McHale and wrestled him to the ground during a confrontation over a traffic ticket.
McHale was arrested on charges of resisting arrest and assaulting an officer, but they were dismissed. He sued the city over the arrest and a jury awarded him more than $400,000. The City Attorney’s Office had argued that McHale picked the fight and was being profane and uncooperative.